Should You Invest In A Mobile App For Your Restaurant?

Mobile apps are an emerging player in the restaurant technology ecosystem. Vying for prime real estate on a consumer’s phone, mobile apps can reap profitable rewards if they manage to score that coveted spot.

16% of Starbucks orders are placed on their mobile app, and Domino’s app accounts for 50% of their mobile orders.

Popular apps successfully attract new business, and play a key role in maintaining customer loyalty.

But for many restaurants that aren’t Starbucks or Dominos, enticing customers to download a mobile app when the average person only has two restaurant apps on their phone at any given time is an uphill battle.

A Mobile App For Your Restaurant: What To Consider

So, should mobile apps be left to corporate giants? No. But restaurants should carefully weigh the pros and cons of investing in a mobile app, and evaluate their goals to determine if an app is the best tool for reaching their objectives.

Instagram, for example, could be a far better and more cost-effective tool for infiltrating the digital space and gaining a loyal following. Gorgeous pictures of well crafted dishes and testimonials from customers who love your food, for example, could be all you need to bolster profits and expand your reach.

If your social media presence is prominent, and you’re still strongly considering a mobile app for your restaurant, here’s what you need to know.

Mobile Apps: Pros

It’s no secret—people are on their phones, a lot. Consumers expect convenience and personalization, and well-developed apps seamlessly combine these prized features to create an experience that’s almost as crave worthy as your food (hopefully).

Not only can customers order their favorite meals from a mobile app without searching a menu or re-entering card information, but they can earn points, participate in loyalty programs, and take advantage of rewards. McDonald’s has even created parking spots for mobile order pickup customers.

Apps Are Versatile

The app market has reached the point of saturation, but rightly so—people love apps and will continue to download them at a progressive rate because they create a positive brand experience; apps can send highly personalized messages that appeal to a customers’ individual cravings.

Apps also enable businesses to enhance returning visits, integrate a feedback section for improved services, and track key metrics such as order volume and peak ordering times to optimize marketing.

Apps: Cons

While an app has the potential for millions of downloads, the reality is that most consumers are highly selective about what they put on their phone, and they won’t download a new restaurant app unless they have a compelling reason to do so.

Not every business needs millions of downloads, but they do need to see a return on investment. Considering it either takes significant time, or money (if you’re outsourcing) to develop an app, the downfall is that your investment could flop and strain your restaurant’s budget.

So how do you know if you’re a good candidate for a mobile app? Restaurants that could benefit from an app have the following traits:

  • A significant portion of their customer base are millennials – millennials are more likely to download and utilize an app than other generations.
  • They have a steady, regular customer base – apps can attract new customers, but they’re mostly a great perk for people who are going to your restaurant anyway. If you want to secure loyalty among your regulars, an app with a loyalty program is a great way to do so.
  • They’re higher on the income scale – startups or mom-and-pop shops that don’t have profits to spare shouldn’t go into debt to develop an app.

Instead Of An App…

Another option, if you already have a website, is to ensure that your website is mobile-enabled, so people can order from their devices (a feature that’s expected from most consumers). That way you’re not competing for space on customers’ phones, but you’re still offering the value and convenience your customers are looking for.

OneDine’s technology allows customers to browse your restaurant’s menu on their mobile device, as well as order and pay whether they’re at your restaurant or at home. This  enables restaurants to offer app-like features at a much lower cost.

Diversify Your Marketing Channels

Apps are a great tool, but they’re not the end-all be-all. To truly compete in the digital ecosystem, you have to come at consumers from multiple angles.

Users should have a positive experience on your website and, ideally, can connect with you on social media platforms. In your marketing efforts, you should always consider the demographic you’re targeting, and what your key drivers are.

Still Want To Develop An App?

If you want to take up space on your customers’ phones, you have to offer value in return. Successful apps are easy to navigate, well designed, and tailored to the user. Your app should include these handy features:

  • Social media integration
  • Feedback portal
  • In-App payment options
  • Search options
  • Chatbots/customer support
  • Loyalty/reward program

Apps can be a useful investment for restaurants that have the resources, financial and otherwise, to put toward creating them.

However, it’s important to remember that you don’t need a dedicated app in order to maximize your online ordering and payment capabilities. Partnering with a third-party provider like OneDine can get your restaurant up and running with online ordering, curbside pickup, and payment capabilities in as little as 24 hours.